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The question of how to deal with problematic elements in beloved older films is an increasingly thorny concern in modern cinema. Does the depiction of slavery negate the groundbreaking cinematic achievements of Gone With The Wind? Is it still OK to love Annie Hall in spite of the allegations against Woody Allen? And can James Cameron’s True Lies still be appreciated as the apex of 90s action absurdity when it’s also packed with racial stereotypes and questionable treatment of its female co-lead?
We don’t really have the answer to that question, but after Harry made the bold assertion in our year-end wrap up that recent Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson vehicle Skyscraper represented his idea of a perfect action movie, it was obvious that an education in Arnie was required.
True Lies reunited Schwarzenegger and Cameron after the blockbuster success of the first two Terminator movies. Keen to diversify his brand of high octane action movies, Schwarzenegger had already branched out into comedy with Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Last Action Hero, to mixed results. True Lies hit the sweet spot, appealing to fans of action and camp on the way to a $400 million global box office haul.
In addition to elevated levels of absurdity including a horseback chase onto the roof of a skyscraper, a villain being fired out of a missile cannon and many, many explosions, one of the key elements of True Lies is a hilarious turn from Jamie Lee Curtis, demonstrating her considerable sex appeal and flair for physical comedy in the role of Schwarzenegger’s wife – who is inadvertently drawn into his secret double life after his attempt to satiate her thirst for adventure goes badly wrong.
The Curtis scenes represent the best and the worst of this movie – she gets more to do than the vast majority of women in action movies, and she has most of the funniest, most memorable scenes. But as appealing as Curtis is – she deservedly won the Golden Globe that year for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy – it’s hard to get away from how cruel and male gaze-y the treatment of her character is. She also has the scream. A lot.
Cameron infamously cancelled plans for a sequel to True Lies after 9/11, on the grounds that global terrorism was no longer a laughing matter. You might argue it never was, but perhaps a 2019 update of True Lies could extract the many brilliant elements of the original movie while phasing out some of the more distasteful aspects. That’s our goal in this week’s episode as we pitch our own True Lies sequel ideas – featuring villainous Finns, a gender-flipped version of that dance sequence, and the real story of what exactly Eliza Dushku’s character was up to during the 90 minutes in which the original movie apparently forgot she existed.
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Next week, our Episode 100 Spectacular finally hits the stage! We’ve chosen a bona fide classic to talk about, with some very special guests, a room (hopefully) filled with friends and fans, and much more. Until then, happy listening and remember, always check your battery before recording a villainous monologue…